Tag Archives: Indiana

And (Most of) The Children Will Lead Us….

As Americans were hanging on every update of the vote counting, Inside Higher Education posted a fascinating–and overall encouraging–graphic.

 

The embedded image shows the election results we would have gotten had we counted only the votes cast by those under 30. In a real sense, it also is a snapshot of each state’s “political future.” Overall, the map is comforting–results range from light to dark blue in large areas of the country, confirming my often-stated belief that the younger generation overall is more inclusive, more community-minded and “with it” than my own.

Voters under age 30 leaned heavily Democratic, favoring Joe Biden over President Donald Trump by a wide margin (61 versus 36 percent) in the recently-called presidential election, but there were key differences among young voters across gender, racial and state lines, according to an analysis of exit polling data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University in Massachusetts

That said, there are some disappointing elements to the analysis. For one thing, young white men supported Trump by a six-point margin (51 versus 45 percent).( I am happy to report that young white women favored former vice president Biden by 13 percentage points (55 to 42 percent)).

Even more disquieting for my family of Hoosiers, Indiana remained red amid the varying shades of blue. Young people in Indiana will evidently carry on the state’s tradition of minimal, largely ineffective government and widespread racial antagonism. As my son recently pointed out, higher-education levels are low in the state, and young Hoosiers who graduate from college leave Indiana at a high rate.

Other states show evidence of evolution, albeit with that same disquieting racial breakdown:

In Georgia and North Carolina, 90 percent or more of young Black voters chose Biden, while more than half of young white voters (54 percent in North Carolina and 63 percent in Georgia) favored Trump.

In Texas, Latinx voters supported Biden over Trump by a nearly 50-percentage-point margin (73 versus 25 percent), while a majority of young white voters preferred Trump (51 versus 45 percent for Biden).

My son pointed to the analysis as justification for his advice to his teenage children–“find a better place to live; don’t come back to Indiana; we’ll follow you.” That advice was more anecdotal evidence supporting Bill Bishop’s Big Sort assertion that Americans are voting with our feet, and “sorting” geographically into locations where our neighbors share our political convictions.

None of this bodes well for Indiana. The past couple of decades have seen small towns continue to empty out. Children born in those towns, and the rural areas that surround them, have migrated either to metropolitan areas within the state, or left Indiana entirely. The super-majority of Republicans dominating our state’s legislature  has waged war on public education, creating a voucher program that sends already scarce education dollars to (almost always religious) private schools, several of which teach creationism in lieu of science.

Indiana’s legislature has also defunded higher education, resulting in Indiana’s finest colleges admitting ever more out-of-state students who tend to leave after graduation.

The low levels of education and the relatively low levels of diversity around the state contribute to a situation that’s exacerbated by the “winner take all” law that is the worst aspect of the Electoral College. Even if 49.5% of Hoosiers somehow voted for a Democrat, the state’s Eleven Electoral Votes would be awarded to a Republican who received 50.5%, a situation that encourages the legislature to ignore dissenting voices. That’s not a situation likely to bring talented people to Indiana, or to keep those we manage to raise.

People move to livable communities. Strike one against Indiana’s creation of such communities is our neglect of infrastructure. Strike two is inadequate funding of education. Strike three, as displayed on the embedded map, is the fact that Indiana voters — today and evidently into the future — can be counted on to support know-nothings and White Supremacists up and down the ballot.

Indiana–the Mississippi of the North….

An Omen?

In Indiana, early voting started yesterday, and my husband and I got to the City-County Building at 8:00 a.m., when the polling place in the Clerk’s office was to open.

We didn’t stay to vote–because the line, at 8:03, already wound entirely around the block–and our blocks are long. (My husband, who just turned 88 and has a bad ankle, cannot stand for long, so we decided to take a folding chair and try again Friday.) There were several hundred people there, before the Clerk’s office even opened, determined to cast their ballots, and while impressions can be misleading, I’m pretty sure they weren’t Trump voters. It was beautiful.

Posts to Facebook showed the line replenishing through the day, and some people reported a three-hour wait to vote.

Granted, we live in a city, and in a world increasingly polarized into red and blue, cities of reasonable size are all deep blue. If there is similar turnout in the rural, deeply red parts of Indiana, we’re unlikely to turn the whole of our retrograde state blue–but that incredibly long line was immensely heartening.

I know that every election is touted as “most important.” But this time, it is clearly true. This election is about policy, of course–but at its center, it is a morality play. It will test whether our fellow Americans are prepared to recommit to the American ideals about equality that we’ve yet to achieve–or whether a majority of us will adamantly reject the goal of e pluribus unum–out of the many, one.

At its core, this election is about whether we will disavow or endorse bigotry.

The moral significance of this election is why I am really, really hoping that Trump survives COVID-19. As conservative columnist Bret Stephens wrote in yesterday’s New York Times,

We wish him well because if, God forbid, the president were to die this month, he would go down undefeated, a martyr to the tens of millions of Americans who’ve treated him as a savior. Trump’s death would guarantee a long life for Trumpism, with his children as its principal beneficiaries.

We wish him well because Trump’s opponents — Democrats and NeverTrumpers alike — need a clean political victory. If Trump survives but is forced to endure a difficult recovery, it could put the hideousness of last week’s debate behind him, mute the criticism of his performance and soften his image in the eyes of wavering voters. The longer he lingers, the better his chances may be, at least politically.

We wish him well because if illness keeps him sidelined and he winds up losing the election, he will surely blame the disease for the loss. This could well be untrue (see above), but it won’t stop his supporters from believing it. Again, Trump the man needs to live — and lose — because it’s the only way the Trump cult might die.

For me, by far the most depressing aspect of the last twelve years has been the need to come to terms with an ugly reality–the number of Americans who embrace white nationalism, who have “come out” and shown the rest of us who they really are.

Until Obama’s election, I naively thought that the percentage of the population that was racist and hateful was relatively small. I was stunned when the rocks they’d been hiding under lifted, and they crawled out, spewing venom; I was demoralized and disheartened by their enthusiastic agreement with Trump’s insistence that civility, empathy and human-kindness are evidence of weakness in the face of “political correctness.”

This election will tell us how plentiful these people really are. It will tell me if my longstanding belief in the essential goodness and common sense of most Americans was hopelessly naive, or justified.

I hope that line at the City-County Building was an omen.

My Endorsement

This post is mostly for readers who live in Indiana’s 5th District–or anyone who has friends and/or families who vote in Indiana’s Fifth. The primary election, which was postponed until June 2d, is approaching. (If you haven’t done so, be sure to apply for your absentee ballot by May 21st!)

As Hoosiers know, the district’s incumbent Representative is Susan Brooks, who (wisely) decided not to run again. To say that Brooks has been a huge disappointment to those of us who thought we knew her and expected her to be at least reasonably moderate would be an understatement. (To be a Republican these days is evidently to be a devoted Trump sycophant…)

Christina Hale is one of five Democrats running for the Fifth District seat, and in my admittedly biased opinion, she should be the slam-dunk choice. (There are fourteen candidates in the GOP primary, and– with the exception of Mark Small, who is valiantly trying to save the party from itself– they all seem to be emphasizing how Trumpy they will be if elected.)

I met Christina when she served in the Indiana legislature, where she was a highly effective advocate for women and girls  and small businesses, among other things. (Of the five Democrats running, Christina is the only one with legislative experience.) She’s a Latina  who put herself through school while she was a single mom, and she brings that same determination and capacity for hard work to her campaigns and legislative work.

When Christina ran for the Indiana State House in 2012, she defeated a 20 year Republican incumbent–flipping the seat from red to blue– and when she got to Indiana’s Republican-dominated statehouse, she got things done: during her legislative career, she had over 60 bills passed with bipartisan support.

I got to see more of Christina when she was John Gregg’s running mate in 2016, and I was further impressed with her campaign skills and her ability to communicate what is very clearly her passion for good government.

Can she win in the fall? Yes.

So far in this campaign, and despite the weirdness of running for office during a pandemic, Christina has outraised all of the other candidates– Democrats and Republicans–in every single quarter.  The reason that matters is because no matter which Republican emerges from that primary, you can be sure that person will be very well funded. But it also matters because those donations reflect donors’ excitement for Christina’s candidacy, and their belief that she can win.

I’m not the only person enthusiastic about Christina; so far, she’s been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, Latino Victory Fund, and a number of unions, including United Steelworkers, Sheet Metal Workers, IBEW, AFSCME and, most recently, the Serve America PAC.

You needn’t take my word for any of this. You can read about Christina at the campaign website.

I’m writing about Christina’s campaign because I can’t help her by voting for her–I live in Indiana’s 7th Congressional District, where I have a Congressperson with whom I am supremely happy, Andre Carson. (Andre is effective, intelligent, and responsive, and in our blue city, he is highly likely to be re-elected. He doesn’t need my help.)

The 5th District used to be solidly red, but it includes a significant number of educated professionals and solid, middle-class voters who have given evidence of re-thinking their allegiance to the GOP under Trump. In 2018, for the first time in forever, three Democrats were elected to municipal offices, and the incumbent Democratic Senator– who lost statewide– carried the district.

If the 5th District is ready to turn light blue–and I think it is–a candidate of Christina’s caliber and demonstrable bipartisan skills has the best shot of keeping it that color.

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth. But no matter who, VOTE. And VOTE BLUE.

It’s Not Just In Washington

It seems as if the rule of law is under assault everywhere.

A recent story by Reveal, a nonprofit news organization, alleges that during the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters, the state made four safety citations against the company “go away.” (I find it illuminating–and incredibly depressing– that the Indianapolis Star simply published Reveal’s investigative report. It’s just one more bit of evidence that the Star itself no longer has the capacity to engage in investigative journalism or fulfill its watchdog role.)

When an Amazon worker was killed by a forklift in a Plainfield warehouse in 2017, the state of Indiana’s investigator found the company was at fault. The state cited Amazon for four major safety violations and fined it $28,000.

But an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that, as Gov. Eric Holcomb sought to lure Amazon’s HQ2 to Indiana, state labor officials quietly absolved Amazon of responsibility. After Amazon appealed, they deleted every fine that had been levied and accepted the company’s argument — that the Amazon worker was to blame.

The investigator on the case, John Stallone, had arrived at the warehouse a day after 59-year-old Phillip Lee Terry was crushed to death. He was so troubled by the pushback he was getting from higher-ups that he secretly recorded his boss, Indiana OSHA Director Julie Alexander, as she counseled the company on how to lessen the fine.

“It’s like being at a card table and having a dealer teach you how to count cards,” Stallone said.

Stallone is quoted as saying that pressure to back off came from “as high up as the governor’s mansion.”

The governor has reacted angrily, sending Reveal and the Star an intimidating “cease and desist” letter, and insisting that he was not involved in handling the dispute. The officials at the labor department have thus far declined to be interviewed.

According to Reveal,

Indiana OSHA issued four serious safety citations, for a total fine of $28,000. Stallone sought more, but he was getting pushback. On Nov. 20, 2017, Stallone joined his boss, Julie Alexander, the Indiana OSHA director, as she called Amazon officials. He secretly recorded the conversation, which is legal in Indiana, and shared the recording with Reveal.

During the call, Alexander told the Amazon officials what she’d need from them in order to shift the blame from the company to “employee misconduct,” according to the recording….

Some days after the conference call with Amazon officials, Stallone said Indiana Labor Commissioner Rick Ruble pulled him into his office. The governor was there, too, standing by the commissioner’s desk, according to Stallone.

He recalled that Holcomb told him how much it would mean to Indiana if the state won the Amazon headquarters deal. Then, Stallone said, the commissioner told him to back off on the Amazon case — or resign.

Stallone did resign, and reported the situation to OSHA.

The same day Stallone sent his whistleblower email, Amazon’s corporate offices in Seattle gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to Indiana’s governor. It was years before Holcomb would next face reelection, and Amazon hasn’t donated to him before or since.

Perhaps–as the Governor and labor officials insist– Stallone is just making entirely innocuous actions seem nefarious, although it is difficult to imagine what his motive might be. Or perhaps, the prospect of winning Amazon’s headquarters–or at the very least, avoiding measures that might make the state less competitive–persuaded the Governor and other officials to make an exception to the rules.

These days, everywhere you look, exceptions are swallowing the rules.

 

 

Indiana’s School Voucher Program–The Back Story

Toward the end of yesterday’s post about high-stakes testing, I noted that its largest-in-the-nation voucher program illustrated Indiana’s penchant for simple answers to complicated questions.

I have friends who sincerely believe that “school choice” will help poor children escape failing public schools, and none of the careful academic research that documents voucher schools’ generally poor academic results convinces them otherwise. “Private” is a word like “shazam!”– magically opening imaginary doors.

Critics of Indiana’s voucher program tend to place the most blame on Mike Pence, but a recent series of articles identifies Mitch Daniels as the political brains behind Indiana’s program. Pence certainly expanded it–and engineered amendments to ensure that religious schools, rather than other private institutions, would be the major beneficiaries. (In Indiana, some 92% of vouchers are used to attend religious schools, virtually all Christian and a sizable number fundamentalist.)

No one who knows Mike Pence, however, would describe him as the brains of any operation. That accolade belongs to Mitch Daniels.

After noting that five years after the program was established, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients had never attended Indiana public schools–failing or not–and that Hoosier taxpayers are now covering private and religious school tuition for children whose parents had previously footed that bill, the author proceeded to describe the voucher program as an outgrowth of a conversation at a dinner party hosted by Steve Hilbert, at which Daniels is quoted as saying “There is no reason even debating the abysmal, atrocious failure of the public school monopoly anymore.”

In the years that followed, three of those dinner guests — Daniels, Pence and Klipsch — would be major players in the quest to privatize traditional public education in Indiana.

Klipsch would start and run a political action committee, Hoosiers for Economic Growth (a.k.a. Hoosiers for Quality Education), that would play a major role in creating a Republican majority in the Indiana House to redistrict the state to assure future Republican control.

In 1996, however, there were no charter schools in Indiana, nor were there virtual schools or vouchers. Neighborhood public schools served communities in a state that had always taken a “liberal and leading role” in providing public education for its children.

Twenty-one years later, Hoosier public schools were showing the effects of 15 years of what the article characterizes as “relentless attack.”

Entire public school systems in Indiana cities, such as Muncie and Gary, had been decimated by funding losses, even as a hodgepodge of ineffective charter and voucher schools sprang up to replace them. Charter school closings and scandals were commonplace, with failing charters sometimes flipped into failing voucher schools. Many of the great public high schools of Indianapolis were closed from a constant churn of reform directed by a “mindtrust” infatuated with portfolio management of school systems.

The author traced the decline to Daniels.

After his election, Daniels quickly laid the groundwork for creating a system based on the belief that the market principle of competition would improve education outcomes and drive down costs. Under the guise of property tax reform, Daniels seized control of school funding by legislating that the state would pay the largest share of district costs known as the general fund, while giving localities the responsibility for paying for debt service, capital projects, transportation and bus replacement. Daniels and the legislature also made sure that districts would be hamstrung in raising their local share by capping property taxes so that they could not exceed 1 percent of a home’s assessed value. The poorer the town, the less money the district could raise.

The remainder of the lengthy article traces the changes to Indiana education made by Daniels and Tony Bennett, his chosen Superintendent of Public Instruction–changes funded by Betsy DeVos’s foundation. I encourage you to click through and read the article in its entirety. And weep.

My only quibble is with the author’s obvious belief that Daniels’ assault on public education was motivated by a malevolent intent to privatize the state’s schools. Unlike Pence, Mitch Daniels is a highly intelligent man. He is also thoroughly political and ideological. My guess is that he drank deeply from the well of GOP dogma, and believes–with an almost religious fervor, evidence be damned– that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. (Why so many people who clearly believe this nevertheless spend their professional lives in the public sector is an enduring mystery.)

So here we are. Vouchers have increased religious and racial segregation without improving academic performance. Meanwhile, public schools are struggling to perform without adequate resources, and the state’s underpaid teachers are leaving in droves.

Did Indiana’s schools need improvement? Absolutely. Were vouchers an appropriate or effective remedy? Absolutely not.

That’s what happens when ideology trumps evidence.